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Bandula Warnapura, Sri Lanka’s first test captain, dies

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Bandula Warnapura, who played in two World Cups and led Sri Lanka in its first cricket test but later received a ban for participating in a rebel tour to South Africa, has died. He was 68.

Warnapura led the country in its inaugural test in February 1982, facing the first ball in that match against England in Colombo.

“He was an excellent cricketer, administrator, coach, commentator and, above all, a good person, and his passing away is a huge loss for the cricket community,” Sri Lanka Cricket President Shammi Silva said in a statement posted Monday on Twitter. “I am sure his name and deeds will remain in our hearts forever.”

Warnapura played four test matches as an opening batsman and medium fast bowler between February and September 1982, including two in Pakistan and one in India. He also played 12 one-day internationals, including the World Cups in 1975 and 1979 before Sri Lanka was elevated to cricket’s highest status.

His decision later in 1982 to join a tour to South Africa, which was in sporting isolation because of its apartheid policies, resulted in bans from Sri Lanka’s government and the national cricket board. He was one of three players from Sri Lanka’s inaugural test XI who received life bans, which were lifted after several years.

The lowering of the ban was too late for Warnapura to return to the game as a player, but he worked as a broadcast commentator and was a cricket administrator at the national and domestic level.

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